Award for New Poets, 3rd Place Winner: Self-Portrait No. 5 by Cynthia Manick

We’re all very excited to share with you the winners of the 2018 Award for New Poets, selected by Victoria Chang. Today, we have “Self-Portrait No. 5” by Cynthia Manick—a lovely poem of birds and bellies and the inevitable struggle to love oneself. Stay tuned for our second place poem by Cara Waterfall tomorrow, and our winner Kirk Schlueter’s poetry on the 28th. Thank you to everyone who submitted this year!


Self-Portrait No. 5 (Phoenix and Lullabies)

Some people think I was born

savage+++biting at hands clouds and daggers

with no softness to be found+++but I contain

whispers+++bright coral beads stacked

the language of blood jostling against itself,

coconut oil+++curves molded by my mother’s thumb

broad bones and something wild.+++Sometimes I’m

a brown belly+++song bird+++who knows the tongue

can be a land not beaten+++the hot arch ache

in someone’s back+++while the TV’s on,

or it can be a pistol.+++It covers all+++my gristle barbs

blue and yellow howls+++and the rag doll heart,

where I shook off my father’s+++baritone

the day he left.+++I turn brine lake+++that never stirs

the same way twice+++salt assholes and smiles

boiled over.+++It’s not a lie to say+++that I’m still learning

to love+++the frames of undressed tress+++my glasses

the Medusa hair that defies+++every comb+++red

pomegranates+++my baby self+++the little girl

inside who still craves+++model trains Josie and

the Pussycats cartoon+++and wonders about the spaces

between the teeth and the ribs.



Cynthia Manick

Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). A Pushcart Prize nominated poet with a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School; she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, the MacDowell Colony, Poets House, and the Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts among others. Winner of the 2016 Lascaux Prize in Collected Poetry and the 2018 Elizabeth Sloan Tyler Memorial Award; Manick is the Founder and Curator of the reading series Soul Sister Revue.  Her poem "Things I Carry Into the World" was made into a film by Motionpoems, a organization dedicated to video poetry, and has debuted on Tidal for National Poetry Month and Reel 13 Shorts. Manick’s work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day Series, Bone Bouquet, CallalooKweli Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, Muzzle Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She resides in Brooklyn, New York.

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